Norway’s number one Kurt Maflin has enjoyed a rollercoaster journey from his London roots to becoming snooker’s top Scandinavian. Now he’s flourishing on the sport’s grandest stage, preparing for the quarter-finals of the Betfred World Championship.
Having represented England as an amateur, Maflin switched London for Oslo in 2004. He moved there to live with wife Anita, who was representing Norway when they met at the 2001 European Amateur Championship in Riga.
Since then Maflin has become fluent in the language, had a son in Oslo named Neon and now proudly plays as a Norwegian on the professional circuit. He admits that, although the move was initially both a daunting and exciting prospect, he was ready for a change.
“It was quite nerve-racking,” said three-time ranking semi-finalist Maflin. “I was fed up of London by that point. Oslo is quite a big city, but it has a relatively small population. It is a great place to live and I settled in pretty quickly.
“Norway isn’t that different to England in terms of the culture. I learned the language in about six months. I did it by reading the subtitles on television. They don’t dub over films in English like they do in other countries. They just put subtitles on the bottom. So I would try to read them and match things up. I wasn’t afraid to embarrass myself and I picked it up pretty quickly.
“I would never have dreamed that I would move to Norway, have a child in Norway and represent the country. Never in a million years. I take a lot of pride from it. I now also do some commentary for Norwegian Eurosport and I really enjoy that. My Norwegian fans and viewers all class me as Norwegian and they can’t hear any difference when I am talking. They see me as one of their own.”
In the years following Maflin’s leap to professional snooker, he endured an up and down time on the table. Between the 2001/02 season and the 2011/12 campaign he suffered five relegations from the circuit, but the world number 43 has since been a firm fixture on the tour.
He spent a few years away from the professional scene after his move to Norway in 2004 and had decided to hang up his cue, until a chance meeting with a potential sponsor at a national amateur event.
Maflin explained: “I moved to Norway and had basically stopped playing. Anita wanted to play in one of the Norwegian tournaments, so I thought I would go along. I got to the final and before I played I met a businessman called Knut Pedersen. He had been watching me play and said that if I made a century break in the final then he would sponsor me to start playing again. I made a 137 break in the first frame, won the final and that was that.”
Maflin went on to win the 2006 World Amateur Championship in Jordan, a feat which he describes as ‘one of the highlights’ of his career. However, after returning to the professional tour and suffering another relegation, he was hit by a bitter blow in 2010 when he broke his collar bone in a car accident.
“I was driving in Norway and found myself on pure ice. I was approaching a roundabout and lightly pressed down on the breaks, but I still started skidding. The car spun round and round and collided head on with another car coming in the other direction. There was a five or ten second period where I blacked out. The first thing I heard when I came round and got out of the car, was children screaming. I thought it was going to be very bad. Thankfully a man got out of the car and he didn’t have a scratch on him and neither did the children, they were just shaken up. I didn’t know I had broken my collar bone until I complained about how sore it was and showed another driver who had pulled over. He told me it was snapped in two and I went into hospital.
“I had a Challenge Tour event in London just a few days after that. The doctor told me that I needed an operation as it was quite a complicated break. I told him I couldn’t as I was in quite a good position in the rankings on the Challenge Tour and needed to play. I flew over and it was so painful that I couldn’t play any stun shots, all I could do was roll balls in. I somehow managed to win my first game and lost in the next round. It was a bit stupid really. When I got back I had the surgery and they did a really good job. I have a six to eight-inch plate in my shoulder with eight screws, but it hasn’t affected me really. I haven’t had to change my cue action. It just took quite a while to get fit again.”
Maflin enjoyed a special moment in 2015 when he competed for Norway in the World Cup, in a two-person team alongside his wife Anita. They bowed out in the group stages, but did register wins against Austria and Singapore.
“I know what it is all about in terms of the nerves and the TV, but for her it was an amazing experience and she did enjoy it. Originally we were told we were only going to have one game on TV against China. In the end we actually played four of the five. She handled it really well, even though I played terribly. It was a really good experience and is something that has never happened before, with husband and wife playing in the same team for their country. It was quite unique.”
Over the years Maflin has been very open about the fact he feels he’s underachieved in not winning a professional title to date. In the run-up to this year’s World Championship he dramatically upped his work ethic and has reaped the rewards at the Theatre of Dreams. Whether it be here in Sheffield, or in the future, the Norwegian is determined to capitalise and land silverware.
“I feel that I have underachieved in my career if I am honest and that is frustrating. There is nobody to blame but myself. My dad has coached me all of my life and he gives 150%, while for most of my career I was giving around 60%. I’ve started practising a lot harder since around April last year, so hopefully I can benefit. I now spend about half of the year in the UK. A lot of the top players talk highly of me and think I should be higher ranked. Even Ronnie said that in the studio, after my quarter-final loss to Neil Robertson at last year’s Welsh Open.
“I have always said that you can never truly believe that you have it in you to win that first tournament until you have done it. There is always that slight doubt in your mind. I know people say that once you get that first one you can go on and do more and I would love to try and do just that.”